Breaking the Barrier – Fractional Lasers

What does a fractional laser treat?

There are two types of fractional lasers now, the more gentle, erbium-type fractional lasers, (often called “non-ablative”, and the CO2 (carbon dioxide) laser systems. In general lasers treat mild to moderate acne scarring, and fine wrinkles, sun damage, and aging on the face, neck, chest and hands but also on the arms, legs, and back, improves elasticity and fine lines around the eye and on the eyelids, improves skin texture and tone and reduces precancerous lesions by replacing sun damaged skin with new skin.

The CO2 systems are better for treating patients with deeper wrinkles, deeper acne scarring, and other scars. The fractionated CO2 lasers treat more deeply, but may also require more downtime than the non ablative laser treatments.

A series of treatments (generally 3-5) are performed, usually one every 3-8 weeks. The benefits of fractional laser treatments are achieved with little discomfort and minimal risk. 

How does fractional resurfacing work? 

The non ablative laser creates tiny “microthermal” zones deep into the skin which the skin repairs by pushing out the old sun damaged skin and replacing it with new skin. Each treatment replaces about 15-20% of the sun damaged, scarred or wrinkled skin. It triggers the body’s natural healing process accelerating the production of collagen and new, healthy skin cells.

How long do the effects of a treatment last?

That depends on how well you protect your skin from the sun and your genetic aging process.  If you apply sunscreen and wear sun protective clothing, your skin will look good longer than if you are tanning, including tanning booths, or spend a lot of time outdoors.  If you are careful with your skin, your skin may continue to look good with annual maintenance treatments.

How long does the laser take to work?  When will I see results?

Many people notice results within a week after their first treatment.  Their skin feels smoother, looks less blotchy, and has a glow to it.  

The results depend on what your issue is that you want treated.  If you are doing a series, you may need to wait the full length of the series, which can be 5-6 months, to see the complete and best results.  Usually, collagen will continue to develop even up to 3-6 months after your last treatment.

How much do treatments cost? 

The cost varies by where you live, the office you go to, and the size of the area being treated. A full face laser resurfacing should cost ranges from $900 to about $1400.

How are Non ablative laser treatments performed? 

You need to arrive about 1-1 ½ hours before your treatment. You or a technician will cleanse the treatment area and then apply a numbing cream to the area to be treated.

After you numb for about an hour, the numbing cream will be removed. The treatment takes about an hour for a full face. You may feel a warm sensation at the treatment site during the procedure. The discomfort ranges from mild to moderate. Plan on being in the office for 2 hours total.

What will I look like right after the treatment and what is the healing time? 

During the first 24 hours after treatment, your skin may feel as though it is sunburned. Ice packs or frozen peas are recommended immediately after treatment. 

Your skin will look very red immediately after the treatment and will fade over the next 1-3 days. you can go back to normal activities including work, with make-up to reduce the signs of redness immediately. Rarely, bruising may develop, but resolves within days. Within a few days after treatment, a “bronzed” look to the skin is common, which can last 1-2 weeks. Your skin may flake and exfoliate a little. Using a moisturizer will help reduce the appearance of dry flakes. Remember, it may take several treatments to obtain optimal results.